Principles of the 6d6 System

The 6d6 system has been written with certain principles in mind, principles designed to create an easy to learn, fast to play, flexible game. Game Leaders and designers who wish to expand or change the game mechanic will end up with a better modification if they also follow these principles.

1. Everything is on the Cards

Everything the player needs to know about their character and their abilities should be on the cards in front of them.

From round to round the player should have nothing to remember. Their situation, status and potential actions should be obvious from the position and content of the cards. There should be no hidden extra dice or modifiers that need to be carried over from round to round.

Adherence to this principle reduces the cognitive load on the players, making the game easier to learn and quicker to play with fewer mistakes.


There are things within the 6d6 system that the player needs to remember, such as the basic rules about pools and flows and the meanings of keywords. However these are fixed so once learnt they have a negligible cognitive load.

A few ability cards, such as Knock Down, cost the target one flow and this has to be remembered by the affected player until their next turn. However, these are relatively rare events and the player only has to remember a single, simple piece of information. Any game mechanic that requires more than this should be rethought.

2. No Pencil Needed

A player should not need to pick up a pencil during a game.

Game mechanics that need players to update cards or do other book-keeping will slow the game. They also give rise to mistakes when players cannot remember whether they have updated a piece of information or if they have misread a hastily scribbled note.


Character generation and modification does require a pencil to track CP and dice values. This is generally a one-off task during a session and does not interfere with the overall speed of the session.

Sometimes avoiding using a pencil is worse than using a pencil. The magazine of an M-16 assault rifle contains 30 rounds. Requiring the player to have a stack of 30 bullet cards to track their ammunition creates more problems than it solves. In this situation, using a pencil is the better solution.

3. Reuse

Reuse existing mechanics rather than creating new mechanics. This keeps the game simple to learn and play.


As the 6d6 system has more than one game mechanic it could be said that the entire system breaks this principle, but new mechanics are sometimes needed. The principle is to start by trying existing mechanics to solve the problem, only moving on when they have been tried and failed.

4. Remix

Combining existing keywords can create variations and flexibility in the system without the need to create new mechanics.

This is most evident in equipment and effect cards. Two swords with identical dice values can be differentiated by one having the Close Quarters and Open Melee keywords and the other the Extended Melee and Open Melee keywords. A short-range weapon combined with the Rotate keyword has different advantages and disadvantages from a long-range weapon without the Rotate keyword.

5. Make It Simpler

Each game mechanic should be made as simple as possible.

Learning a new game is a slow process even for experienced role players. To new players the sheer complexity of the rules can be off-putting, making it much harder to grow the 6d6 RPG and for the gaming hobby to reach new players.

A good way to test the simplicity of a mechanic is to write down an explanation of how to use it. If it is difficult to explain in way that is clear for the reader, the mechanic is too complex.


The concept of effects cards is probably the single most complex part of the system, but some problems should have complex solutions. Flexible and powerful game mechanics generally require more complexity (e.g. Effect cards). Complexity can also add depth to a game, giving the player more to discover and master.

6. Title, Keyword, Description

A player should be able to understand a card by reading the card's title, keywords and summary.

Titles should be concise and give the player a good understanding of what the card represents. Keywords contain the card's behaviour and mechanics.

The description has two roles. Firstly it expands on the title, aiding the player in their understanding of what the card is about. This is particularly vital if the title is a word or concept that is not in common usage. Secondly the description can add to or limit the game mechanics covered in the keywords.

All three pieces of information have a limited space on the card. If it is not possible to fit any one of these items on the card, they are too complex and need to be rethought.

7. Remember They Are Cards

Cards can be moved, re-positioned, stacked on top of one another, handed to other players and much more. The game mechanics should take advantage of these features.

One of hardest parts for a designer used to working with other RPGs is to stop thinking about character sheets and writing things down. 6d6 game mechanics should be about moving cards around, taking advantage of their physical properties.

A lot of information can be encoded in the cards' position, their orientation and their relationship to other cards (e.g. stacks). Take advantage of the cards rather than attempting to recreate what other games do.

8. Everything has a Cost

The 6d6 system is a game of choices and all choices have a cost.

Some costs are obvious, such as buying a card with Character Points or using flow. Others are more subtle. A card that goes in the dynamic pool has a higher cost than one that goes in the static pool because the dynamic pool is limited in size. A dynamic card typically costs 25% of the dynamic pool's capacity, thereby limiting the player's options.

The card's title and description can place a cost on a card. Life cards, such as Brawn and Speed, can be used in a wide range of situations compared with skill cards, such as Ancient Languages. The Character Points invested in the life cards give a better return on their investment even though the two types of cards have almost identical keywords. Careful choice of a card's title and description can have a significant impact on the relative cost of a card.

Placing a cost on everything and forcing the player to make meaningful choices makes the game more engaging.

9. No Negatives

6d6 is a game of advantages where a character only adds to their chance of success. The player should never be required to subtract from their action dice or modifiers. There are no disadvantages or negative penalties applied to characters, only advantages and bonuses applied to the character's opponents.

10. Be Sociable

Role playing is a social activity. Game mechanics should encourage and stimulate social interaction between players as much as possible.

It does not matter what the interaction is about or whether it is in-character or out-of-character. What matters is that players share their thoughts, ideas and experiences with each other. The short descriptions and vague meaning of each of the cards is a deliberate choice to stimulate discussion and shared decision making.

11. Don't Tell the Players What to Think

Allow the players to be creative in whatever way they want, including how they use the rules of the game.

Role-playing is a creative activity and a great form of self-expression, but game mechanics inherently limit a player's ability to be creative. Game mechanics should aim to provide a flexible and adaptable skeleton for the players to flesh out with their own creativity. The more specific the rules are (e.g. this card must be used with that card) the less opportunities the players have to be creative.

Game mechanics should ensure that the players do not have to reinvent the wheel each time they play but should allow the players free choice as to the size or colour of the wheel.

12. Failsafe Mechanics

Failsafe does not mean, as a lot of politicians and journalists seem to think, that something will not fail. It means that when it does go wrong, it does the minimum possible harm.

Players will always make mistakes and many gamers have unknowingly played games incorrectly for years. The more complex the mechanic and the more rarely it is used, the more likely it is to be used incorrectly. Mistakes should not have an undue negative impact on that game.

When players deviate from the written rules they are likely to tend towards the basic idea of the game - play some cards, roll the indicated dice, score more than the target number. The closer a game mechanic is to these basics the less impact it will have when it is used incorrectly. The further away it is, the more likely a character will be massively advantaged or disadvantaged. Either of these is detrimental to the player's experience and the game as a whole.

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open/mechanics/universal/principlesof6d6.txt · Last modified: 2012/02/10 13:00 by tregenza
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The 6d6 RPG tabletop store is owned and operated by Chris Tregenza. Who also owns and runs Myomancy, a site about ADD / ADHD medication, Autism and Dyslexia Treatments and also site called Poosk. Chris also provides copy-writing, web design SEO advice to sites like Dingles' Games pathfinder rpg resources.